Monday, March 11, 2013

A Tipping Point? Perhaps - It's Up to Us

3-D Matrix
The SIGCSE conference ended Saturday and the ACM Education Council meeting ran the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday and I suspect we are all happily exhausted. Of all the interesting things that happened over the weekend, there is one particular item I want to ponder aloud with you. It has to do with

At our conference lunch on Saturday, the thousand or so of us listened to a very interesting talk by Jane Margolis about the impact of  . When she started off by saying that she assumed most people in the audience had seen this gone-viral video, I looked around and wondered if I was the only person in the room who had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently I wasn't the only one, but the majority of the audience was in fact aware of this amazing phenomenon that has attracted incredible public attention and enthusiasm for coding. Jane showed us the short version of the video (there are three versions, approximately 1 minute, 5 minutes, 9 minutes) in which everyone from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to some basketball star (you can tell I don't follow basketball) to a rap musician (you can tell I don't follow rap) talked about how cool coding was and how important for kids to learn in school.

One of Jane Margolis' main points was that although we are justified in being very excited and happy about the groundswell of positive PR for coding that is now happening, we must not sit back and put our feet up. We have to recall on several levels that "trickle down does not". In other words, if things continue to go well and more computing classes or activities such as clubs become available to students, we should not forget to be actively alert to issues of equity and equal access for all populations. Our decades old problem with attracting and retaining women and under-represented minorities to computing isn't going to magically evaporate merely as a result of increased popularity of the field. We need to maintain vigilance.

Shortly thereafter, in the ACM Ed. Council meeting, the creator of the video, Hadi Partovi, spoke to us about his experience creating the video, the thousands and thousands and thousands of emails he has received and the social media firestorm it has created. One of the central issues Hadi brought up for the Council to discuss, and something all of you can think about is: what now? There is this incredible groundswell of people from parents to kids to engineers to school superintendents wanting to do something to bring coding into the school system. What do we do to leverage this moment in time?

For it is a Moment in Time. There is an opportunity; this can be a tipping point if we take advantage of it. The computing community, in particular the computing education community, has been working for years to draw attention to the importance of computing in the classroom. All of a sudden, as a result of Hadi Partovi and 's video, we are witnessing an incredibly powerful, positive, public response.

We should keep passing this video around to anyone who hasn't seen it - especially those even remotely involved in K-12 education, computing education, STEM education, education policy, parents.

But what else can we do? Everyone can contribute in some way to leveraging this opportunity. The incredible video from is a starting point.

What action will you take?

1 comment:

  1. The video is mesmerizing. It excites us as computing individuals. Note I did not say as computer scientists; the majority of whom made up the 1300 attendees at SIGCSE. The video reaches out to an immense audience. I've spent decades encouraging women to get into the computing field. Now it appears I have to be encouraging to both young men and women. At times, it feels like a loosing battle. Sigh.

    I don't know if we're at a tipping point. And I remain convinced that America's youth continue to be innovative. It's just that it feels like I'm swimming upstream.